The sea can be a dangerous place. Anytime you are leaving land, you are at risk of serious injury. No one knows this better than the men and women who work every day aboard boats, barges and other vessels. Workplace injuries at sea fall under a different law than most other injuries.
As major ports, Houston have large populations of people who spend significant amounts of time at sea. When those people get back on land, they deserve justice for any injuries they have incurred due to the negligence of shipowners.
Houston Maritime Lawyer
If you’ve been injured at sea, the dedicated and highly experienced attorneys at Ben Bronston & Associates can help you fight for compensation and hold the negligent party accountable for your loss. Whether you were working as a seaman or longshoreman, if you’ve suffered due to the negligence of your employer, you deserve justice.
We are proud to represent clients who have been injured in the waters along the Gulf Coast. If you are ashore in Texas, call our Houston office at 713-CALL-BEN, or (713) 225-5236. We’ll set up a free consultation to go over your injuries. We work on a contingency fee basis meaning you are not responsible for a dime unless we recover money to help you address the injuries you sustained unjustly.
Information for Victims of Accidents at Sea
- Protection and Remedies Under The Jones Act
- Maritime Claims Based on Unseaworthiness of a Vessel
- Types of Accidents That May Occur at Sea
- Who is Represented by Maritime Law?
- Maritime Resources in Texas
- Finding the Best Maritime Attorneys in Houston
Protection and Remedies Under The Jones Act
You are most likely to be injured at sea if it’s your job to be at sea. Seamen, sailors, merchant marines and commercial fisherman have some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. If you work at sea, any mistake by your employer or co-worker can lead to serious injuries, including brain damage, broken bones, spinal injuries and severe lacerations, and some accidents can even lead to death. Worse, the fact that you might be at sea may prevent you from immediately seeking medical attention, leading your injuries to worsen.
Fortunately, Congress has passed the Jones Act to protect those who work at sea with maritime workplace accidents. The Jones Act allows seamen to bring suit against the owners of a ship or barge they are working upon in federal court. Who qualifies as a seaman under the Act is subject to much debate. Courts have defined a person as a seaman if:
- His or her work contributes to the function of the vessel and the accomplishment of its mission.
- He or she has a connection to the vessel that is substantial in both duration and nature.
Some offshore jobs, like working on an offshore oil rig, may not qualify under the Jones Act. Your lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify under the Jones Act, and, if not, whether another statute or law, like the doctrine of unseaworthiness or maintenance and cure, may help you seek redress for your injury.
The Jones Act uses comparative negligence, meaning your employer will only be liable to the extent that the jury finds they are responsible for your injury. For instance, your claim may be that another seaman improperly left a deckplate hatch open and you fell, severely injuring your back. The shipowner’s insurance company may argue that you are largely at fault for your own injuries, because you should have known about the opening and were being careless. If the court determines you are 40 percent responsible, you will only be able to collect for 60 percent of your injuries.
Maritime Claims Based on Unseaworthiness of a Vessel
A common cause of injuries and wrongful death among maritime workers is negligence on the part of a vessel’s owner that leads to it being unseaworthy. The owner of a ship is responsible for maintaining a vessel that is safe to transport goods, crew members, and passengers, and neglecting this duty can lead to unsafe conditions.
Based on the warranty of seaworthiness under general maritime law, a ship’s owner whose negligence leads to injuries can be held liable in a civil lawsuit. This warranty outlines that among the owner’s duties is the responsibility to provide adequate safety measures for workers, and an adequate crew to safely handle the tasks given to them. Under this guideline, many maritime law claims fall under this category, making this one of the most common topics of maritime lawsuits.
Types of Accidents That May Occur at Sea
In the dangerous fields of work involving the sea, there are innumerable ways in which a maritime worker could be injured or even killed while working. Violent weather, dangerous equipment, and hazardous conditions lead to a risky work environment where even a small accident can lead to catastrophic injuries.
Some of the more frequent types of accidents on the ocean include:
- Slip and fall
- Cargo operation accidents
- Exposure to dangerous gases and chemicals
- Factory processing accidents
- Defective or unseaworthy equipment
- Unsafe ladder / gangway accidents
- Crane accidents
- Hypothermia or drowning
- Oil platform accidents
These various accidents can be caused in a number of ways and lead to a wide range of injuries, ranging from broken bones to death. Equipment that is properly maintained and proper training in their use is essential to maintaining a safe workplace, and when items such as rigging, machinery, and safety gear are neglected they can easily cause serious accidents. In addition, providing adequate crew members who have the necessary skills to maintain and safe work place and handle any emergency are key in both preventing accidents and mitigating their consequences.
Who is Represented by Maritime Law?
Although the idea of maritime workers may call to mind fishermen or commercial vessels, there are many other workers who fall under the protection of maritime law. Any worker whose duties bring them in contact with the ocean or ships has the capacity to be injured in their line of work and could have rights under The Jones Act and other laws.
As a dedicated personal injury firm, Ben Bronston & Associates is proud to represent all types of maritime workers, including:
- Commercial Fishermen
- Tugboat Crew and Workers
- Dock and Shipyard Workers
- Oil Rig Workers
- Ferry Workers
- Barge Crew
- Cruise Ship Employees
- Recreational Boating Victims
- Commercial Divers
- Merchant Mariners
While most workers on the seas fall under the Jones Act, dock workers and other land-based employees are protected under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. There are many ways in which a worker could be injured even while not on board a vessel, leading to financial struggles and stress. General maritime law also covers almost anyone who may be injured in a maritime setting, including passengers. Whether you or a loved one has fallen victim to negligence at sea, it is important to seek out the compensation that you are owed under law, and Ben Bronston & Associates stands ready to guide you through this process.
Maritime Resources in Texas
Texas Department of Transportation: Maritime Division – This website provides information on Texas’ ports, waterways, and other maritime topics. The department of transportation is a thorough source of official information for maritime activities.
Texas Ports Association – This organization seeks to provide information on the many ports of Texas and to grow Texas’ economy through their development. The website provides updated information on legislation and resources for ports throughout the state.
Port of Galveston – As one of Texas’ major ports, Galveston is home to many maritime workers and their families. This website provides a wealth of information, including maps, job opportunities, and details on its operation.
Finding the Best Maritime Attorneys in Houston
If you’ve been injured offshore in an accident, either as a seaman or passenger, the dedicated legal team at Ben Bronston & Associates can fight for you. Contact us today at (713) 225-5236 or send an online message. Your initial consultation is always free and is a great opportunity to learn more about your legal options with experienced Texas admiralty lawyers.